Daily Edventures | Scouring The Globe For Daily Stories Of Innovative Education
As Vice President of Worldwide Education for Microsoft, Anthony Salcito meets inspiring people in education every day. Daily Edventures is dedicated to telling the stories of the people who have been quietly transforming lives in their corner of the world.
Kristine Holloway Middle School Teacher Peel District School Board Mississauga, Ontario, Canada @mspaperless
Kristine Holloway - YouTube
For MIE Expert Kristine Holloway, some of the most fun and exciting days in her classroom involve problems. Namely, solving them. This year, her classroom has focused on finding solutions to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And the tool that has become invaluable to their work? Skype in the Classroom.
“Through Skype in the Classroom I can connect my class to other students and experts from around the world,” Holloway shares with us. “We also use Skype for sharing ideas and to collaborate on global projects. Skype in the Classroom is my favorite tech tool to empower my students to achieve more.”
This year, students in Holloway’s sixth grade class participated in the global collaborative project tackling UN Sustainable Development Goal #13, the Climate Action project, which was spearheaded by MIE Expert Koen Timmers from Belgium. The Climate Action Project involved 250 schools in 69 countries around the world and was supported by world leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall and Celine Cousteau.
Holloway’s class undertook research and participated in the five-week-long project using 21st century skills. “My class collaborated on Skype with grade 3 and 6 classes in Ontario, by together exploring ways to help solve and repair the effects of climate change as global citizens,” she tells us. “Students brainstormed, conducted research, discussed ideas, and finally presented and shared their findings with a global audience using Sway. The classes collaborated on a Sway of the ‘Top 10’ ways they could help reduce their global carbon footprints. Students thoroughly enjoyed listening to the ideas of the younger students and together they came up with some ways they could help the planet.”
As part of their research, students investigated the potential for using 3D printing to save coral from bleaching and shared their ideas on Twitter with oceanographer Jamie Buchanan Dunlop, the expedition leader and director of digitalexplorer.com. Students investigated the properties of various materials and recommended limestone as the material to use for 3D printing the reefs.
In addition, students investigated the plastic-munching potential of the mealworm as a potential solution to Earth’s garbage problem. “My students’ project work culminated in the creation of a video, ‘Mealworms on the Loose,’ which Koen shared at a Belgian Education Conference and was even featured on the Belgian news,” Holloway says. “I also recently shared this project work at the E2 Education Exchange in Singapore as part of my presentation on Taking Teaching Global with the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”
And while her class is accustomed to solving problems, Holloway acknowledges there is still room for improvement in tackling access to technology.
“Technological inequality is a problem for education and we must find ways to bridge the digital divide that currently exists in our schools,” she explains. “Technology is widening the opportunity gap at the same time as the digital divide. The gap between those who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not is simultaneously creating a technology disparity for low income families. Inadequate access to technology can hinder students from learning the necessary skills to become successful in tomorrow’s economy.”
True to form, Holloway has been working on solutions to this issue, including joining other Ontario educators — Joe Archer and Lee Miller – on a project called #Connect2Inspire.
“The goals of the project are to connect Northern communities with classrooms in urban centers to share ideas to provide quality education using 21st century technologies and tools,” Holloway says. “We plan to utilize our collective knowledge and skills in coding and programming to provide quality education and reduce inequalities for indigenous students while developing long lasting partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals. While using Scratch/Scratch Jr., and Micro:bits on MakeCode, our goal is to create narratives and programs with indigenous students to celebrate Canada’s 150th by creating sustainable partnerships in education now and leading a new pathway into the future.”
Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Skype in the Classroom, OneNote, Sway, Minecraft
What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness, if your heart is in the right place.
Website I check every day: Phys.Org, Engadget, Gizmodo, SpaceX, NASA
Favorite book: The Great Gatsby
Favorite Childhood Memory: Computers and technology have always been a part of my life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about technology. Ever since I was a little girl I can recall playing Cabbage Patch on ColecoVision, E.T. on Atari (although I never could figure out how to get him to phone home) and I was one of a few from my generation that was able to play on a Commodore 64 and had access to HAM radio operator equipment. When the Nintendo came out, the whole family got into the car for Christmas vacation in Buffalo, New York. I can recall the excitement of un-boxing Mario and Duck Hunt! In school, I loved to play Oregon Trail, Number Cruncher, Reader Rabbit and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?Design and technology class was also a favorite of mine. I recall designing a pin hole camera and then processing the black and white film in the dark room. I also made a clock, puzzle and train during middle school. In Family Studies, I learned how to sew on a machine and by hand. At home, I enjoyed learning sign language, drawing blueprints, designing new fashions and inventing new things, such as the world’s largest globe, made out of hula-hoops and a hand drawn map taped together and wings cut out of cardboard and tied onto the arms for human flight.
San Juan, Puerto Rico @gtorresemct
For MIE Expert Gretchen Torres-Cintron, helping to shape active learners may be a teacher’s most important role.
“Students need to be active learners and take ownership of their learning,” she tells us. “We need to create innovative projects to challenge our students so they become critical thinkers instead of passive learners.”
“One of my favorite activities to do with my students is using Skype in the Classroom and playing Mystery Skype,” she explains. “It empowers my students to do more and become culturally aware of their surroundings, to become global citizens and have empathy for others.”
As for her own inspiration, Torres-Cintron recalls an email from one of her students, telling her he had been accepted to a summer program he wanted to attend. He linked his success to an exercise he had done in class, where students wrote letters about themselves to a future employer.
“As ESL students, many of them struggle with writing,” she says. “This was a pivotal moment in my career when I realized I was making a difference. I was forming the future generation. I began to appreciate what I do and put this new-found appreciation into practice. I decided I needed to break away from the traditional models of what to teach, how to teach it, and when to teach it, and began listening to the students I was teaching.”
Julci Rocha Director Redesenho Educacional Brazil @julcirocha
As a Microsoft Ambassador in Brazil for two years and a teacher-training for more than a decade, MIE Expert Julci Rocha met and trained over 3700 teachers, helping them to innovate with technology in the classroom. But she didn’t always want to be an educator.
“In my country, being a teacher is not something socially recognized.” she explains. “In general, we are poorly paid and working conditions are very precarious. Although I have always had affinity with this universe — influenced by a mother who was a teacher — I did not want to be one of them. But I realized that education was more than an occupation: education is our opportunity to make the world a better place.”
At the end of 2017, Rocha’s work inspired her to form a start-up, Redesenho Educacional (Education Redesign in English), to support educational institutions (schools and universities) in coaching teachers in their personal and professional development, and building their confidence to be true learning designers and facilitators.
“Our team is made up of Brazilians MIE Experts,” Rocha says. “I usually say that we are the Brazilian Microsoft partners, and real specialists in the classroom, because all of us are teachers.”
Rocha takes her role as part of the “transition generation” seriously, recognizing that we are facing a world crisis in the education model. And she’s optimistic that change is happening.
“We are going to migrate from a transmissive education model to an education model based on people development in all dimensions: intellectual, emotional and ethical,” she says. “For now, we need to consolidate the competency-based education model and all the pedagogical practices that support this model. [Technology] is very important in this process, offering new ways of teaching and new ways for students to collaborate and express their thoughts.”
How do we facilitate this crucial change? “To accelerate this process,” Rocha says, “Educators need to be encouraged to experiment with new ways of teaching without fear of making mistakes. Innovation requires mistakes, sometimes.”
Educational background: Major in Portuguese/French Language and Literature, as well as an M.Ed in Curriculum. Specialist in Education Management, Instructional Design and Innovative Education.
Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Difficult question! I really love the versatility of Sway. But now, I´m in love with Windows Creator Tools, the Photo App, and Paint 3D.
Website I check every day:Edutopia. Edutopia is a website to spread innovative practices in K-12, encouraging teachers to adapt them and to start innovating in their own context. We have a Brazilian channel that spreads practices and researches in Portuguese.
Favorite childhood memory: Every beginning of the school year. I really loved the moment to start a new notebook, a new book, new colored pencil, crayon, eraser, markers. I still love to buy these things and to visit these kind of stores, because they remind me of school and my wonderful childhood.
Favorite book: “The Solitaire Mystery,” by Jostein Gaarder. This novel is a blend of imagination and reality from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy named Hans Thomas. The journey of Hans Thomas to find his mother happens while he starts to read a mysterious book with characters entering in his real life. At the end, the great lesson is to follow this little boy finding the meaning of his own life and to realize that this meaning could be extend to us, the readers.
What is the best advice you have ever received? Do not give a piece of advice to those who did not ask for it.
Pauline Maas ICT teacher and author of children’s coding books VSO Mariendael and CodeKlas (NGO) Arnhem, Netherlands @4pip
Pauline Mass - YouTube
When Pauline Maas left her career in technology to become a teacher, she was seeking a completely new work environment and a place where she could make a difference. She got both, but isn’t stopping there.
“I notice that teachers really want to change things,” says Maas. “Our school is very personalized (kunskapskolan), but we still must do so many mandatory things. There’s not always time to experiment. I want to focus more on the student and where their passion to learn comes from.”
One place at her school allows Maas to do just that: the Makerspace. “The students can work on anything they choose from a list of 40 different subjects, robotics, coding, soldering, working with wood, 3D printing, laser cutting, or just experiments they find on YouTube,” Maas shares with us. “I am happy when all of my students say, ‘Yes, it is working.’ Not only the bright kids, but every kid.”
Monika Szalek Computer Science Teacher Strumienie Schools of The Sternik Association Warsaw, Poland
For MIE Expert Monika Szalek, the right tools can make a world of difference – especially when teaching students basic computer skills.
“I think that the biggest challenge facing education today is how to teach everyday communication between people and computers,” Szalek tell us, “so I work with programs like Minecraft to teach young people the philosophy of communication with computers and other controllers, and how to write algorithms and do programming.”
Microsoft Teams and OneNote Class Notebook play a major role in Szalek’s classroom, and her students learn to use these tools very quickly.
“I teach my students how to use Teams to discuss, share, learn and collaborate,” says Szalek. “I prepare my materials and homework for my students on Teams, so I can check their work and communicate with them virtually.” Szalek also practices what she teaches, using the apps on her phone and taking notes on paper far less often.
What’s next on Szalek’s journey?
“So far, I have taught teachers in my school how to use Microsoft’s and other firms’ products in their work,” she says. “But since I have been an MIE, I’ve seen a lot of programs to teach students computer science and programming. I started using these programs, and it was a very nice experience. I want more!”
Magic Hill Primary School
Jan Voda - YouTube
As a school leader, MIE Expert Jan Voda is a big supporter of 21st century learning design. When he first heard research on the subject in 2013, he knew his school would need to evolve.
“It is impossible to teach the 21st century skills traditionally (the same thing the same way at the same speed),” Voda tells us, “so the shift also led us to different methods.”
The new methods use project-based learning and build on the school’s philosophy that an individualized approach helps every student achieve his or her maximum potential. But focusing on every student individually isn’t without challenges.
“Each student works on his individual project over a two-month period,” Voda explains. “The following two weeks we spend on evaluation. It proved extremely demanding for teachers to write a full report for each project, so we created a system based on rubrics. Using Microsoft Excel, we easily generate the assessment for each student in a smart, quick and comprehensible way. I have just finished my lecture on using Excel for this purpose here on the Global Forum in Education in Singapore.”
As his school continues to focus on communication, cooperation, problem-solving, and other 21st century skills, Voda worries about a growing generation gap.
“What children acquire nearly automatically and consider obvious, adults need to study hard,” he points out. “For decades, a teacher had been expected to have an answer for each question. However, the one-way model of delivering education from a teacher to his/her students is simply not applicable today. A teacher might learn many things from children, too, and they can learn together from social media, the internet and through the help of technology. This is causing a big shift in education. Both teachers and students need learning. Will teachers respond appropriately?”
Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: PowerPoint to create our weekly school newspaper
Website I check every day: TED.com
Favorite childhood memory: When I was seven years old, my 2nd grade teacher inspired me to be a teacher. That afternoon my parents found me in my room preparing quizzes and crosswords for my future students.
Johnson Monari Teacher of English Language & Literature and Theory of Knowledge Aga Khan Academy Mombasa Kenya @JohnsonMonari
Johnson Monari - YouTube
Just a year into his teaching profession, MIE Expert Johnson Monari was feeling bored. He had heard about the Microsoft Educator Community as an online educators’ platform, so he signed up with the intention of making strides toward transformative teaching.
“I started using online collaborative tools, and at first things did not work out,” Monari tells us. “At one time, my lesson was being observed by the vice principal and I wanted to really show that I was using technology. Students were working online and they unfortunately lacked netiquette and kept deleting their colleagues’ work. This made the class chaotic and the lesson fell apart.”
But that experience didn’t dissuade Monari from his dream of becoming a more innovative educator. Instead, he gradually learned how to make tasks more authentic and to create more meaningful and smaller task-oriented groups.
“I took risks and introduced some tools like OneNote, Sway, and even a class blog,” Monari says. “Teaching and learning became more interesting, especially when we started connecting with classrooms across the world through Skype. From the Microsoft Educator Community, I can quickly find innovative educators from any part of the world and Skype with them. Learning has gone beyond the barriers of my classroom walls and we are now working on doing collaborative projects with students from two different continents. We are becoming the world’s citizens!
One recent “lesson hack” Monari created required students to learn persuasive language. They worked in groups of three to design an authentic advertisement of their choice with at least four advertising techniques which would persuade their target audience. The students could advertise an existing product or service in an entirely new way or create their own product. The ad had to be catchy, concise, comprehensive, and convincing. The final product was a video clip of no more than 120 seconds. They then prepared presentations analyzing their own work with a maximum of eight minutes to critique the purpose, techniques used, and the target audience.
Monari’s teaching has changed since those first days of joining the Microsoft Educator Community. Even so, he acknowledges there are challenges that need to be overcome. “Instead of setting the pace, it seems like teaching and learning have to catch up with our dynamic society,” he tells us. “Students learn a lot about the past and the present, but they are not being involved adequately in creating the future. This is a tragedy!”
Mone Denninger Teacher GXG XII Erlgasse Vienna, Austria @MoneDenninger
Hone Denninger - YouTube
Making changes to the way you teach is never an easy thing, especially when you first start out. For #MIE Expert Mone Denninger, flipping her classroom was the goal, but she didn’t see the benefits overnight.
“It wasn’t easy to start a flipped classroom because students have to learn how to watch a learning video,” she shares with us. “But after some time, the students realize the benefit of the model. They love to collaborate and work on mathematics problems. Now I have time to separate groups and give my students individual exercises.”
Denninger uses technology in nearly every lesson, teaching mathematics and computer science to students from 10 to 18 years old. “We use Teams to communicate and collaborate, OneNote Class Notebook and Forms. I make the videos with PowerPoint.”
And while technology has helped Denninger to completely change her classroom and the way she teaches, she acknowledges that students still need to be guided in how to responsibly use these tools.
“Teenagers today do not believe they have to learn anything because they think they find all content on the internet,” she says. “The biggest challenge for teachers is to make it clear that other competencies – aside from just knowing facts — will be needed in the future. Working together, being individual, treading new paths, being innovative, to be different from the crowd and especially from machines, that is important for the pupils to learn.”
Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote, Teams, Office Mix, Forms, Word
What is the best advice you have ever received? Try it!
Website I check every day: Facebook
Favorite childhood memory: My brother was mean and did not help me swap my broken drive. I was about 12 years old. He said that I could do it alone. This was the first time I had a computer screwed on. And he was right! I could easily change the drive alone. Since then, I knew that even girls can handle technology. That’s no problem at all. You just have to dare! Guys are only human!
Nicos Paphitis ICT teacher The Junior and Senior School Nicosia, Cyprus @PaphitisN
Nicos Paphitis - YouTube
Some educators can look to one moment that defines their careers. But not MIE Expert Nicos Paphitis. “I am who I am because of hundreds of defining moments,” he tells us. “From the students who come back after graduating with their kind words of how I inspired them with pep talks, or from the ones who were able to find their path in life through the subject I taught them.”
Some students have stood out in his mind, however. “Students that were classified as ‘weak’ students,” he says. “Students that believed they could do no better than a grade C or D…students who at first would fade away in the background noise of the class, but at some point, turned it around and got A’s. A couple of these students have come back after their exams and told me that it was my constant help and attention that made them realize they could do better.”
And while Paphitis is clearly doing a lot right in his classroom, even an educator as accomplished as he has challenges.
“Differentiating has got to be the biggest challenge in a mixed-ability classroom,” he says. “Finding ways to keep all the students motivated so they can take control of their learning. Stretching students who are far exceeding, while not demotivating students who are either emerging or not meeting expectations must be the hardest part of all. At the end of the day, it is our job as educators to ensure that all our students feel they can succeed, and if they feel they can, they will.”
Just how does Paphitis meet this challenge? Creative and unique learning experiences. His favorite? “Escape the classroom (breakout rooms) as group activities,” he tells us. “The competitiveness between the groups to escape first makes the students forget about any quarrels or differences they have, and they work united for the bigger cause (to escape). Grouping mixed-ability students together is a fantastic way for all the students to contribute and share the tasks required to get the password for the next page.”
Paula Barnard-Ashton Lecturer and Manager of eFundanathi – Learn with Us University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa @PaulaBarAsh @eFundanathi
Sometimes, where and how students learn can be just as important as what they learn – especially when it comes to creating 21st century learning environments for higher education. For MIE Expert Paula Barnard-Ashton, who trains lecturers in the therapeutic sciences and education to use technology for blended learning, the “where” and “how” are paramount.
“Our team recognized that computing spaces in higher education are confined to fixed desk, row-by-row computing,” she explains. “It took six years to raise the funds and find the location to create the eZone, which was officially opened in September 2017 as a technology rich, flexible, active learning space that uses mobile technologies for collaboration and content creation.”
So how does this new learning space work? Lecturers lead classes in the eZone using technology, rather than standing at the front of room delivering lectures. Students are fully engaged in the learning process and can work in the eZone when it isn’t booked.
“The eZone breaks the barriers of digital apartheid in South Africa as students have equal access to devices and high-speed Wifi,” says Barnard-Ashton. “One outcome of this [success] is the decision by the university’s senior executive team to develop four additional eZones across the university campuses.”
Barnard-Ashton became passionate about physical learning spaces after visiting the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), where the curriculum is designed around the student’s interests and passions, and the environment supports 21st century learning design.
“The experience made me think about all the fixed desk environments (lecture theatres, computer laboratories) within our higher education space, and how they obstruct collaboration,” she explains. “With this I saw the need to go mobile with technology so that students have freedom to move around and change who they are engaging with in the physical and online space. In South Africa we have very high data costs, so ensuring that there is high-speed broadband Wi-Fi to the learning environment [is key].”
Using technology to address some of the systemic education challenges in South Africa is a big part of Barnard-Ashton’s mission. They are using Skype in the Classroom, for example, to bring the hospital into class so that students can interact with patients and other clinicians in the real world. And the Physiotherapy department is using Teams and the Staff OneNote to manage the increasing load of student administration data, record student support interviews and interventions, plan curricula adjustments, and make sure that all lecturers are informed.
“‘Massification’ is a mandate for transformation in the post-Apartheid South Africa,” she tells us. “The government is mandating that universities accept higher numbers of students – particularly from ‘previously disadvantaged’ backgrounds, without expanding resources. The eZone provides the space and the mobile technology for students to engage with their learning activities so that no student is left behind.”
Educational background: BSc and MSc (occupational therapy) from the University of the Witwatersrand
Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Definitely Sway!
Website I check every day: Twitter, Facebook and the Microsoft Educator Community.
Favorite childhood memory: Taking the overnight train with my grandmother and brother from Johannesburg, to Cape Town and then on to Port Elizabeth and back to visit my aunts and uncles during our December holidays. Gran would pack sweetcorn fritters and lots of treats for us to snack on and then eating dinner in the dining car was our main treat. I did a similar journey with my children three years ago just so that they could have a similar experience.